Also today: Darfur said to be in flames again; Niger’s junta warns of famine; Ugandans petitioned by concerned world over gay bill; Gaddafi’s son visits his patsy in Libyan jail.
Zimbabwe’s indigenisation law for foreign-owned companies kicks in
Zimbabwe’s law that forces foreign-owned companies to sell a majority stake to indigenous citizens is now in effect. They’ve got five years to pass on a 51% stake in firms worth more than $500,000, or their local bosses may go to jail. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change party is in a fragile power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, says the law is illegal because it was published without due process. Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms has left the country needing at least $10 billion to get back on its feet. But the money’s not forthcoming from Western donors while he creates conditions for further economic chaos. The country is now a net importer of food, after suffering a protracted period of hyper-inflation. Things are more stable since the MDC joined government last year, but only just.
Photo: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe views an exhibition at the Pan African Investment Summit at Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Darfur said to be in flames again
Hundreds of people are thought to have died in fighting between the Sudanese army and Darfur rebels around the market town of Deribat. Not long ago the outgoing military chief of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur said the war was over. Sudan’S President Omar al-Bashir said the same thing last week after signing a cease-fire with Darfur’s most powerful rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, and striking a truce with his old foe Idriss Deby, the president of neighbouring Chad. Now, as many as 40,000 civilians have fled fighting between the government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army – which didn’t sign any peace deals – despite Sudan’s army denying any fighting was taking place. Last week the SLA claimed it was attacked by Sudanese troops backed by helicopter gunships and Russian-built MiG fighters. The truth will out, bit by bit.
Niger’s junta warns of famine
The new military junta in Niger says millions of people are threatened by famine. No wonder the opposition supported their coup against President Mamadou Tandja on 18 February, who always denied talk of critical food shortages. The junta also took the opportunity to again promise an end to corruption and the abuse of power, saying democratic elections will be held after an unspecified transitional period. Tandja himself was elected eight months after a coup, with the army stepping back as soon as its work was done. The opposition are hoping they’ll do the same thing again, after Tandja was ousted for trying to hold power beyond the constitutional limit of 10 years. The coup took place as Niger was bracing for food shortages and possible acute hunger after poor rains last year. Maybe there’ll be fewer starving people now.
Ugandans petitioned by concerned world over gay bill
Opponents of Uganda’s anti-gay bill have presented an online petition to parliament decrying the death sentence for gays convicted of being serial offenders, HIV-positive, or having homosexual relations with a minor or disabled person. But most of the nearly half-million signatories are foreigners who back condemnation of the bill by the EU and US President Barack Obama. The opposition campaign is being led by a local Anglican priest, HIV/Aids activists and civic organisations. However, it seems that ordinary Ugandans who oppose the bill are pretty scarce. Ugandans already face 14 years in prison for being gay, but the bill ups this to life in prison and calls for seven years in jail for those who help a person to engage in a homosexual act in any way, including not informing authorities of someone suspected of being gay. The government says it can’t intervene before parliament votes on the bill, because its sponsor, Ugandan MP David Bahati, has presented it as a private member’s bill.
Gaddafi’s son visits his patsy in Libyan jail
A businessman detained in Tripoli since 2008 when a diplomatic row broke out between Switzerland and Libya has been visited by the man responsible for his troubles. He was reported as being polite and diplomatic about the so-called courtesy call from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, who was arrested briefly in Geneva on charges of mistreating two domestic servants. The charges were dropped, but since the incident, the Libyans took some $5 billion out of Swiss bank accounts, suspended oil supplies to Switzerland and detained two Swiss nationals, one of whom was allowed to leave Libya last week. The jailed man, Max Goeldi, said he hoped Hannibal could use his influence to help him return home, saying Switzerland must give Gaddafi’s son the right to sue Geneva authorities over a police photograph of his arrest that was published on the front page of a Swiss newspaper. Beyonce rocked Hannibal at a very bling New Years’ Eve party in the Caribbean last year. Strange world we live in.